Global violence against women is on the rise, marked by a few shocking events that restart the conversation on gender equality and domestic abuse, only to be swept aside in favour of the next tragedy. Just because the focus is no longer on women doesn’t mean anything has changed. So why do we stop talking? Is it too painful to continue a conversation that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere?
Unfortunately, violence against women is nothing new.
● One in every three women aged 15+ has experienced physical or sexual violence, not including harassment or abuse of minors (UN Women).
● In 2020 alone, 81,000 women were killed, with over half of them murdered at the hands of a family member or intimate partner.
● Until 1991, rape within marriage was legal in the UK, with Hale’s law asserting that upon signing the marriage contract, a woman was consenting to sexual intercourse whenever it suited her husband.
● More than 200 million girls and women have been subject to female genital mutilation (FGM), where their sexual organs are removed (usually violently) for non-health reasons (WHO). Whilst there are broader social and cultural reasons prompting the use of FGM, it is almost always performed on minors and motivated by a desire to control the sexuality and behaviour of women.
London was struck by Sarah Everard’s abduction and killing in 2021, but she was neither the first nor the last. Sabina Nessa, a 28-year-old teacher, was walking through a park in South London when she was attacked and murdered by a man with a history of domestic abuse. 19-year-old Sabita Thanawi was killed in her student halls by a man she was seeing who was also known to police for a previous assault. There are many more women whose lives have been taken through male violence, yet all we hear is the same advice of “don’t walk home alone”, “cover-up”, or “avoid being out after dark”. But why have women’s rights legislation stilled at street harassment? Do we not have the same right as men to walk the streets undisturbed?
97% of young women in the UK have been sexually harassed (80% in a public place), yet misogyny is still not a hate crime. Post Sarah Everard, the government launched a campaign to shift the focus of changing behaviour from women to men following the outrage expressed by women who were told to be more vigilant, assertive, and essentially on edge to avoid violence. This campaign, with its newspaper and tube ads, attempts to call out toxic behaviour by encouraging men to challenge other men when they observe inappropriate behaviour, yet doesn’t reflect any actual policy changes to protect women. Despite continuous claims from the government that the streets would become safe in this country, cat-calling has still not been criminalised, and a mere 1.3% of all reported rape cases result in a suspect being charged. The shameful prosecution figures are just one of many reasons women struggle to come forward with their stories, facing prejudice, bias, and outright disbelief when reporting crimes perpetrated against them. Women’s rights movements have gotten us far in attaining gender equality across many areas of life, yet domestic abuse and violence towards women persists, with the sensationalisation of the news and lax social media laws allowing misogynistic figures like Andrew Tate to rise in popularity amongst younger men, shaping the cultural viewpoints of people worldwide. This increase in misogynistic online content has meant that it is now more than ever, vital that we as a society, review the cultural standards we are shaping for younger generations.
Setting aside personal feelings towards the defendants, the outcome of the Amber Heard and Johnny Depp trial felt like a devastating loss for women, everywhere. An alleged abuser’s actions (including describing in graphic terms how he would rape the corpse of his then-wife) were condoned in a court of law whilst the alleged victim’s report was publicly scrutinised, ripped apart, and used to villainise her. Anyone with access to social media in the months preceding the verdict could see the one-sided targeting of Ms Heard as a liar, witch, and false claimant, yet the unsequestered jury was still able to declare her guilty of defaming her previous partner and essentially punish her for talking out about her experiences in an article that does not even mention her alleged abuser by name. Regardless of personal opinions on the facts of the trial, the verdict has flung open the doors for any victim to face a litigious suit on the basis of defamation, acting as a further deterrent to an already incredibly difficult process. Reporting abuse is difficult enough without the fear of retribution- rape victims have to relive their experiences in horrific detail to convince a jury that they had indeed been violently assaulted. Victims also face, especially in cases involving prominent figures, an additional strain of fear and contempt from those who support such figures, regardless of their actions.
Prevention is preferable to prosecution, yet, when so few cases are prosecuted and there is no legal change affording increased protection to women, how can we move forward? How can we become a truly productive society when half of us face the threat of violence when walking down a street? We call for the government to make misogyny a hate crime, outlaw cat-calling and other forms of street harassment, and target school-age boys with education on consent, addressing rape culture, and the inherent gender inequality present in workplaces, schools, and public settings. Awareness of the issues at hand must start early to prevent young boys accustomed to double standards from growing up into young men committed to preserving such double standards.
For length and complexity, this article can only go so far in opening up the conversation surrounding violence towards women, so we encourage you to share your own stories and experiences in the comments or through Instagram using the #uncensored.
Censored Cosmetics was born out of a desire to create a brand that goes beyond mere beauty products. The founders recognized that women should not only have access to safe and ethically sourced cosmetics but also have a platform to share their stories and experiences. By intertwining their brand with the cause of ending violence against women, Censored Cosmetics aims to inspire and support women on their journey towards empowerment.